Election plus three weeks

A look at how the religious vote might have helped Scott Morrison to victory, plus some analysis of turnout and the rate of informal voting.

I had a paywalled Crikey article on Friday on the religion factor in the election result, drawing on results of the Australian National University’s Australian Election Study survey. Among other things, it had this to say:

The results from the 2016 survey provide some support for the notion, popular on the right of the Liberal Party, that Malcolm Turnbull brought the government to the brink of defeat by losing religious voters, who appear to have flocked back to the party under Morrison. Notably, the fact that non-religious voters trusted Turnbull a lot more than they did Abbott did not translate into extra votes for the Coalition, whereas a two-party swing to Labor of 7% was recorded among the religiously observant.

The charts below expand upon the survey data featured in the article, showing how Labor’s two-party preferred has compared over the years between those who attend religious services several times a year or more (“often”), those who do so less frequently (“sometimes”), and those who don’t do it at all (“never”).

Some other post-election observations:

Rosie Lewis of The Australian reports the looming Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the election will examine the three-week pre-polling period and the extent of Clive Palmer’s campaign spending. There is not, it would seem, any appetite to explore the debilitating phenomenon of fake news proliferating on social media, for which Australia arguably experienced a watershed moment during the campaign through claims Labor had a policy to introduce a “death tax”. This is explored in depth today in a report in The Guardian and an accompanying opinion piece by Lenore Taylor. That said, not all of the mendacity about death taxes was subterranean, as demonstrated by this official Liberal Party advertisement.

• As best as I can tell, all votes for the House of Representatives have been counted now. There was a fall in the official turnout rate (UPDATE: No, actually — it’s since risen to 91.9%, up from 91.0% in 2016), which, together with the fact that not all votes had been counted at the time, gave rise to a regrettable article in the Age-Herald last week. However, as Ben Raue at the Tally Room explores in depth, the turnout rate reflects the greater coverage of the electoral roll owing to the Australian Electoral Commission’s direct enrolment procedures. This appears to have succeeded to some extent in increasing the effective participation rate, namely votes cast as a proportion of the eligible population rather than those actually enrolled, which by Raue’s reckoning tracked up from 80.0% in 2010 to 83.2% – an enviable result by international standards. However, it has also means a larger share of the non-voting population is now on the roll rather than off it, and hence required to bluff their way out of a fine for not voting.

• The rate of informal voting increased from 5.0% to 5.5%, but those seeking to tie this to an outbreak of apathy are probably thinking too hard. Antony Green notes the shift was peculiar to New South Wales, and puts this down to the proximity of a state election there, maximising confusion arising from its system of optional preferential voting. The real outlier in informal voting rates of recent times was the low level recorded in 2007, which among other things causes me to wonder if there might be an inverse relationship between the informal voting rate and the level of enthusiasm for Labor.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,359 comments on “Election plus three weeks”

  1. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to an MMT-inspired economic platform. In the real world, I think Labor going to an election which such a platform would go down about as well as it would if their entire frontbench publicly announced their fondness for rooting farm animals. Take the scare campaigns for the carbon tax or franking credits, multiply them by about a hundred, and you’d have some idea.

    And the idea that the sort of swinging voters that Labor has to win over would not only have the faintest idea what MMT is, but actually desire it to such an extent that an Aussie version of the Green New Deal is the only way forward for Labor, is so preposterous it makes my head spin, regardless of the actual merits or lackthereof of such a proposal. Hell, Queensland LNP would be licking their lips just at the name “Green New Deal.”

  2. Magvis Davis
    Agreed; if the normal pattern was followed; Labor would be trying to explain:
    -Chinese ships showing up announced.
    -Refugee boats.
    -Lack of action on climate change.
    -An economy tanking after the Liberals told us it was all good.

    I doubt the federal police would have raided the ABC. They would run the risk of the Keating solution being invoked.

    I suspect the unlosable election was best lost.

  3. MMT isn’t has difficult to sell as some might think, and while I don’t think its perfect but no economic theory is but there is enough evidence to suggest that governments can and do carry debt for a long period of time and this is where the ALP needs someone that can talk finance because it is about cash flow management and the ultimate owners of that debt are those that buy the government debt and that includes everyone’s superfund so in effect taxpayers are earning interest on that debt.

  4. Asha Leu
    Exactly. MMT requires you to understand that a federal budget is not a household budget. Oh and to accept that without government backing that piece of plastic you call money is nothing more than a very nice piece of plastic. Fat chance.

  5. fred: The Greens are here to stay. The Democrats were only as good as their first leader – Meg Lees putting paid the that. If you look at The Greeens’ vote over the years since Bob Brown led them, their primary vote has invariably been around 10%, garnering some nine to ten Senate seats. Admittedly they’re a nuisance, but they’re a nuisance that Labor has to come to terms with. The silly carry on by briefly, et al, is counterproductive in extremis.

  6. frednk
    says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:06 pm
    Magvis Davis
    Agreed; if the normal pattern was followed; Labor would be trying to explain:
    -Chinese ships showing up announced.
    -Refugee boats.
    -Lack of action on climate change.
    -An economy tanking after the Liberals told us it was all good.
    I doubt the federal police would have raided the ABC. They would run the risk of the Keating solution being invoked.
    I suspect the unlosable election was best lost.
    ___________________________________
    Yep. Always better to be out of government than having to explain things. Ugh…it’s the worst. In fact you could say that Bill Shorten was the real winner of the election. Instead of explaining things, (how boring), or having to do something (even more boring), he can continue to have a good cry. It’s more healthy in the long run.

  7. It’s noteworthy to comment that many hitherto interesting, inciteful posters have gone silent of late (save for Andy, who’s going on & off furlough).

    Blame a combination of post-election depression and the fact that many of the most tedious and/or obnoxious contributors here have become particularly rapid and prolific as of late. (The latter likely being a direct consequence of the former.)

  8. frednk says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Mexicanbeemer
    You have a sell-able explanation; but that isn’t MMT.
    ———————————————
    We are probably close to the part of the theory that I disagree with but why do you say my comment wasn’t MMT?

  9. nath everything goes in cycles. Up to date Labor has won elections after the Liberals have completely stuffed things up. The cycle has been broken. Ir is easy to argue that is a good thing.

    This time the Liberals have to clean up their own mess. They may surprise; but I doubt it.

  10. frednk says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:22 pm
    ____________________
    So your a defeatist. If you were in the military your regimental colours would be removed and you’d be shot at dawn for cowardice.

  11. “Labor going to an election which such a platform would go down about as well as it would if their entire frontbench publicly announced their fondness for rooting farm animals”

    Cant really see the ALP going all Barnyard?? 🙂

  12. Mexicanbeemer

    As I understand it.

    MMT says the concept of government debt is a misnomer. Governments can create and destroy currency as required to balance an economy.

    If a government has dept written in it’s own currency; if it has a mind to to it can simple pay it out. To do so simulates the economy, so it must do when there is excess economic capacity.

  13. MB:

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think there is serious merit to the argument that Labor should stop following the “defecit = bad, surplus = good” line and instead work on changing the public mood around government debt. Wayne Swan’s quixotic quest for a surplus deserves some small blame for the downfall of the Gillard government, and Bowen’s own determination to deliver the same likely played a part in the disaster on May 18.

    But I wouldn’t suggest they go much further than that, at least from opposition. A genuine MMT-based platform would be electoral poison. The scare campaigns write themselves.

    Incremental reform is the name of the game, here.

  14. Lars Von Trier
    Always look for the silver thread.
    The next three year will probable be a disaster; but for a Labor partisan it will probable be entertaining.

  15. Oh and to accept that without government backing that piece of plastic you call money is nothing more than a very nice piece of plastic.

    What makes it valuable is the federal government’s promise to accept it back in payment of taxes.

    That’s why the currency is the government’s IOU. The government is saying, “I owe you extinguishment of tax liabilities if you present this back to me.”

  16. frednk:

    [‘I suspect the unlosable election was best lost.’]

    I’ve always been of the view that Shorten didn’t impress. I say that now, in hindsight, resulting from his obvious lack of charisma, not that Morrison was thus embued, apart from the gift of the gab. Morrison in the coming years will be tested – he’ll be tested by a series of events – eg, US/Sino trade relations – he’ll be found wanting thereof, I suspect.

  17. frednk says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:06 pm
    ……………
    I suspect the unlosable election was best lost.
    ————————————
    Every election is winnable and winners make their own luck. Defeatists and yellow flaggers such as yourself should be removed mercilessly to prevent demoralisation in the ranks.

    Forwards with Albo comrades!

  18. FredNK

    It’s not hard to say you have to balance the economy not the budget.

    It might be a lot harder to explain it but most people will understand that.
    Note I posted as an alternative view.

    As for Labor being attacked on such a proposal same old same old. Labor gets tagged by the LNP as out of control spenders anyway. Economically reckless according to them.

    So as far as Labor being attacked I don’t see the problem.

  19. MMT is the economic equivalent of burning coal to generate electricity, or growing your economy through migration. It simply ignores the fact that there are dire long-term consequences, and its supporters instead rely on the hope that they will be dead by the time the debt falls due.

    Sadly, that is no longer the case. The consequences of all of these will be felt by people now living. And it is not going to be pleasant.

  20. Mavis Davis says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:33 pm
    frednk:

    [‘I suspect the unlosable election was best lost.’]

    I’ve always been of the view that Shorten didn’t impress. I say that now, in hindsight, resulting from his obvious lack of charisma, not that Morrison was thus embued, apart from the gift of the gab. Morrison in the coming years will be tested – he’ll be tested by a series of events – eg, US/Sino trade relations – he’ll be found wanting thereof, I suspect.
    _____________________________
    More frednk style defeatism. This translates to just wait for the other side to fall over.

  21. frednk says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Mexicanbeemer

    As I understand it.

    MMT says the concept of government debt is a misnomer. Governments can create and destroy currency as required to balance an economy.

    If a government has dept written in it’s own currency; if it has a mind to to it can simple pay it out. To do so simulates the economy, so it must do when there is excess economic capacity.
    ————————————————-

    Thanks and that is how I understand the theory to work and is the part of the theory that I have an issue with it because while it is already well known that a country with its own currency is able to absorb higher debt levels as the currency adjusts to the business cycle. But the problem as I see it is the government doesn’t write the debt, it sends Treasury out to the wholesale capital market to sell government bonds which the investor as in Superfunds buying that bond so the government raises money on the condition that government will make certain payments then repay the original principle. The other problem with ignoring the bond market is that the government 10 year bond rate usually acts as a key risk rate. This is why some people see the theory has simplistic as it doesn’t seem to understand the government’s relationship to financial markets.

  22. Nicholas

    Do you think taxes are anything more than making room in the economy for the common good.

    Clearly the government can’t create enough money for the common good without inflation as the common good consumes real labor, goods and assets.

    If the money supply doesn’t balance the labor, goods and assets available you have inflation.

    To my mind MMT is basically saying labor, goods and services are reality. They money supply is a variable that has to be managed to maximize the use of available resources, and don’t be scared to use it.

    And it isn’t that different to keynesian economics.

  23. My feeling is it will be a movement to the ALP from 51-49 to 53-47. Any other predictions/ feelings/mood disturbances?

  24. One of the key issues is that what is known as the public debt – the outstanding Commonwealth Government Securities – is completely unnecessary. The federal government does not need to borrow its own currency. The issuance of these securities is completely voluntary. Everyone who doesn’t understand MMT believes that the federal government DOES need to borrow its own IOUs…. but in practice CGSs serve only these purposes:

    1. an instrument for manipulating the supply of reserves in the banking system and enabling the RBA to hit its target interest rate in the overnight interbank lending market…. CGSs are involved (needlessly) in the process of setting the official cash rate.

    2. a completely safe interest-bearing financial asset… the financial sector loves CGSs and sees them as a “benchmark asset” against which other financial assets can be evaluated

    Would it surprise you to know that purpose 1. is redundant? The RBA can simply pay its desired interest rate on reserve balances. It doesn’t need to muck about with bonds to change the amount of reserves in the system.

    Would it surprise you to learn that purpose 2. could be met in a manner that does not involve issuing debt instruments? If the federal government wants the private sector to have access to a completely safe interest-bearing financial asset, the RBA could simply make term deposits available to investors. There is no need for the investment to be in the form of a bond.

    If we had the federal government pay off all outstanding Commonwealth Government Securities it would look like this: the RBA would write down some numbers in securities accounts at the RBA and write up some numbers in Exchange Settlement Accounts at the RBA) We could stop issuing these instruments from now on. We could kill the government debt talking point once and for all.

    There would be no such thing as government debt, and it would be impossible for anyone to invoke government debt as an excuse for inaction.

  25. [‘Blame a combination of post-election depression and the fact that many of the most tedious and/or obnoxious contributors here have become particularly rapid and prolific as of late. (The latter likely being a direct consequence of the former.)’]

    Asha, how dare you speak so unkindly of briefly – I mean to say he/she is normally so brief, his argument so brief, unrepetitive But he does carry on a bit, but that’s just between you and me; please maintain my confidences.

  26. Mexicanbeemer
    I think the big difference is, if the resources are available, the government can use them and pay for this without issuing debt.

    The thing that focused my mind is the realization that all money is created by the government. You then start asking how does the government create the money supply?

    You may have labored for the plastic that you pay in taxes, but the government created the plastic, not you, not the bank (though they seem to want to pretend they did).

  27. Do you think taxes are anything more than making room in the economy for the common good.

    1. Federal government taxes create demand for the government’s currency.
    2. They create non-inflationary space for the federal government’s own spending.
    3. They control inflation.
    4. They influence the distribution of inequality of wealth and income.
    5. They influence the array of incentives and disincentives that individuals and households and firms face.

  28. Nicholas says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    One of the key issues is that what is known as the public debt – the outstanding Commonwealth Government Securities – is completely unnecessary. The federal government does not need to borrow its own currency. The issuance of these securities is completely voluntary. Everyone who doesn’t understand MMT believes that the federal government DOES need to borrow its own IOUs…. but in practice CGSs serve only these purposes:

    1. an instrument for manipulating the supply of reserves in the banking system and enabling the RBA to hit its target interest rate in the overnight interbank lending market…. CGSs are involved (needlessly) in the process of setting the official cash rate.
    ——————————————————-
    What the RBA does each night is entirely different and is designed to ensure that if you choose to go to your ATM at 3am, you can access your money, otherwise you would need to wait until the branch opens next day before accessing your money. And it isn’t the RBA that sells bonds, it is Treasury that does that.

    The government doesn’t write debt, it writes the bond and the market decides what it will pay for that bond. So to say you will ignore it sends a dangerous message to the market and one that would result in higher bond yields as that country’s risk level would spike.

  29. frednk says:
    Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Mexicanbeemer
    I think the big difference is, if the resources are available, the government can use them and pay for this without issuing debt.

    The thing that focused my mind is the realization that all money is created by the government. You then start asking how does the government create the money supply?

    You may have labored for the plastic that you pay in taxes, but the government created the plastic, not you, not the bank (though they seem to want to pretend they did).
    ——————————————–

    I think its well known that the government creates the currency, after all it has the Queen’s head on it and the RBA stamp is on the notes for that reason but the minting of currency is separate from the creation of bonds. one is used to buy the other.

  30. Nicholas has inadvertently hit on another big problem with MMT – a good portion of the population arn’t going to understand a damn word of the arguments in its favour. And things that are hard to understand are very, very easy to drum up scare campaigns about.

    This the sort of thing could possibly be pulled off incrementally by a generally popular government in power for a decade with a succession of relatively friendly senates, easing the public into it term after term. Trying to win from opposition with such a platform is madness. It’s Fightback! on steroids.

  31. It’s not hard to say you have to balance the economy not the budget.

    Balance the economy, not the budget needs to be a rallying cry.

    So does, “The federal government is nothing like a household.”

    “The federal government doesn’t need to borrow its own currency. There is no such thing as government debt. The federal government owes us extinguishment of tax liabilities when we present the government’s currency to the government as payment of taxes. That is the only thing that the federal government owes.”

    The Australian Government nearly always needs to run a deficit. It runs a deficit that is equal to the sum of the domestic private sector surplus and the external sector’s surplus.

    The Australian Government’s deficit is a net addition to the financial assets of the private sector.

  32. Nicholas
    The Australian Government’s deficit is a net addition to the financial assets of the private sector.
    ———————————
    Most if not all financial assets use the government 10 year bond rate as part of their calculations, to dismiss this is to devalue those financial assets.

  33. Asha Leu
    I think people have accepted Keynesian economics, that the economy shouldn’t be constrained by the amount of gold we find.

  34. AL

    Labor went to the election promising smaller tax cuts than the LNP and also closing tax loopholes.

    They got attacked for being economically irresponsible.
    If you are going to be attacked for that anyway at least going with MMT let’s you promise big spending. There are no worries about paying for it as you say it’s MMT.

    Basically Labor would be doing a Ronald Reagan with a different economic theory that lots of people would see self interest in.

    That’s a better position than Labor had with this election.
    Iam not saying it would work. Just recognise the reality that Labor being economically responsible got them nowhere.

  35. “The federal government doesn’t need to borrow its own currency. There is no such thing as government debt. The federal government owes us extinguishment of tax liabilities when we present the government’s currency to the government as payment of taxes. That is the only thing that the federal government owes.”

    Yup, that’ll sure look good on a corflute come election time.

  36. [‘Lars Von Trier’]

    [‘More frednk style defeatism. This translates to just wait for the other side to fall over.’]

    Not so. I think that most progressives were mortified with the result; it’ll take a little while to get over it.
    Labor got done; it has to accept that Shorten wasn’t perceived as prime ministerial – progressives have to accept this base fact. That said, I don’t think Albanese is the solution.

  37. Mexicanbeemer
    Another interesting point is the debt level of successful economies. Clearly the level is not the issue; how it is used and the currency it is written in seems to be the issue.

  38. the market decides what it will pay for that bond

    The central bank can always buy as many bonds as it likes. The central bank therefore chooses the value of the bond and the yield of the bond. It is nonsense to claim that the central bank is at the mercy of “markets”. The central bank has an infinite capacity to buy assets denominated in its currency. Clearly there is no other market actor in that category.

    There is no need for Commonwealth Government Securities. A better way of providing the private sector with a zero risk interest-bearing asset is for the RBA to offer term deposits. That way investors have a 100 percent safe interest-bearing asset and we can still kill the government debt talking point. It is very important to kill federal government debt once and for all. It is incredibly stupid to pretend that the federal government needs to borrow its own currency.

  39. Yup, that’ll sure look good on a corflute come election time.

    It is very easy to be a cynical hipster but I don’t envy you. It would be sad to be you.

  40. Hi Lars
    What’s happened to Eric Roosendaal – his google trail goes dead after he left Huawei and was readmitted to the party (over Jodi’s objections – to her credit)?
    Put me down for 52-48

  41. Nicholas
    That is money printing or quantitative easing and there is some debate over whether its been effective or not and while inflation has remained benign, several asset classes have been pushed into bubble territory.

  42. The next Newspoll I predict will show the Coalition winning a majority of the two party-vote, although good preferred PM numbers for Anthony Albanese.

  43. Yep shellbell. All polls are irrelevant now, until they get their shit together.
    Their credibility will be only be redeemed if they get the next election right.
    Until then, they’re vibey at best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *